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How to Learn Perl

Perl may not be the first language that comes to mind when someone asks you to name a programming language, but that does not mean Perl is insignificant. Indeed, Perl is widely used today for applications ranging from system administration to building graphical user interfaces (UIs).

In this guide, we’re going to discuss how to learn Perl. We will start by discussing what you need to learn and then later we will talk about where you can go to acquire Perl programming skills.

What You Need to Know About Perl

Like any programming language, there are a few basics that you need to know before you start learning more advanced concepts or applying your skills in a professional setting. We can call these fundamental skills “building blocks.”

To master Perl, you should learn the following concepts:

  • Syntax: How is Perl code written? You should start by learning the answer to this question. A good place to start is the “Hello, World!” example common in programming.
  • Data Types: You should learn what data types Perl supports (i.e. strings and arrays) and how these data types are used.
  • Loops: Loops help automate repetitive operations and are an essential part of many Perl programs.
  • Conditional Statements: Perl uses if…else statements to control the logic behind a program.
  • Arrays: Arrays group similar data together. You should learn how to create an array and manipulate the contents of an existing array.
  • Errors: You should become familiar with how to handle errors in Perl so that when you encounter one you know exactly what you need to do to fix the error.
  • Files: You should learn how to read data from and write data to a file.

You should also spend time learning about scalars, hashes, working with files, and subroutines.

The above list only covers a few of the many Perl topics you will encounter. As you learn more about Perl, you will discover other concepts that will be useful in your programming.

Skills Needed to Learn Perl

What do you need to know about Perl? That is a great question. There are no specific prerequisites you need to meet to learn the Perl programming language. You just need to have the right drive and interest in learning.

Perl is sometimes seen as a less friendly language to learn and so knowing a programming language will be of use if you are coming to learn Perl. This is because there are overlaps between Perl and other programming languages.

For instance, knowledge of arrays from another language will help you to learn how to use Perl arrays. But, everyone has to start somewhere and you should not have too much trouble learning Perl without programming experience.

Why You Should Learn Perl

Perl is a commonly used programming language for a range of use cases. This means two things. First, you will be able to create a diverse range of projects once you have a good understanding. Second, your knowledge of Perl will give you more avenues to pursue in the job market as Perl is used for many types of projects.

Commonly, Perl is used in systems administration roles and data analysis. For instance, you could use Perl to clean a dataset or to derive insights from data you have already collected. You will also find Perl used in areas such as finance and web development. Thus, knowing Perl will position you well for a range of careers in technology.

In addition, the labor market prospects for this skill are promising, too. According to the 2020 Stack Overflow Developer Survey, “respondents who use Perl, Scala, and Go tend to have the highest salaries, with a median salary around $75k.” This shows that learning Perl will have a good impact on your career.

How Long Does It Take to Learn Perl?

Like learning any skill, it is hard to give a time frame on how long it will take you to learn Perl. As a rough guide, expect to spend up to two months learning the basics of Perl, with an hour of study per day. If you want to use Perl professionally, you need to study for up to six months to build the understanding you would need to use Perl to the extent required in the workplace.

Learning Perl: A Study Guide

Where should you go to learn Perl? There are plenty of resources on the internet that cover the Perl programming language. Below we talk about five resources which may help you acquire the skills you need to become a competent Perl developer.

learn.perl.org

  • Resource Type: Online tutorials
  • Price: Free
  • Audience: Beginners, intermediate developers, and experts

The official Perl team has a site called learn.perl.org with examples and guides you can follow to get started using the programming language. The examples include reading a spreadsheet and reading and writing to a file, two operations you are likely to encounter at some point in your data science career.

This site also has a comprehensive set up guide and instructions on how to write your first program which will help you get on your feet as you begin learning Perl.

perltutorial.org

  • Resource Type: Tutorial
  • Price: Free
  • Audience: Beginner

The perltutorial.org website has a range of tutorials for beginners. On this site, you will find detailed guides covering topics such as syntax, variables, and logic. You will also learn how to set up Perl on your computer. This site features plenty of code snippets so you can visualize exactly what the writer is talking about in their guides.

Learn Perl in Y Minutes

  • Resource Type: Tutorial
  • Price: Free
  • Audience: Beginner

Part of the Learn X in Y Minutes series, Learn Perl in Y Minutes is a crash course in Perl. This page features one long code snippet with comments explaining exactly what each line of code does. You may find this resource more useful if you have some understanding of Perl syntax but the resource is written for a broad audience of learners.

Learn Perl 5 by Doing It Course

  • Resource Type: Course
  • Price: $18.43
  • Audience: Beginner

If you already have a basic understanding of programming concepts, Learn Perl 5 by Doing It is a course you should consider taking. This course covers a wide range of Perl topics from writing to files to arrays. You will learn how to build real-world programs such as a web scraper and a program that parses command line options.

Beginning Perl Book

How do you get started with Perl? That is the question this book aims to answer. Throughout the 14 chapters of this book, you will learn concepts ranging from subroutines to lists and hashes and regular expressions. By the end of reading this book, you should feel comfortable with the Perl syntax and writing code in Perl.

Communities for People Studying Perl

Learning a programming language is much easier if you learn about the community around the language, too. Knowing some communities to which you can go with questions will reduce the chance you get stuck on your learning journey. We have curated a list of some communities that you may find useful if you decide to learn Perl.

blogs.perl.org

The blogs.perl.org site is called a “common blogging platform for the Perl community.” On this website, you will find over 100 weekly challenges to help you practice your skills. A lot of the blog posts on this site are contributed by regular programmers rather than team members, so you will find people with whom you can talk on this site.

Perl IRC

The Perl Internet Relay Chat (IRC) group is perfect if you want to chat in real time with developers. You can find other developers with whom to speak, ask questions, and share answers to questions that have been asked.

Perl Weekly

Published each week, Perl weekly is a hand-curated list of resources about Perl. Over 5,000 people have subscribed to this newsletter, which is maintained by expert Perl developers. Each issue shares links to relevant articles and announcements as well as other resources you may find helpful as a developer.

How Hard is It to Learn Perl?

Perl is not the friendliest programming language for beginners. You may find learning Perl easier if you already know another language. With that said, the wide range of resources online means that as long as you are dedicated you should have what it takes to learn the Perl programming language.

Will Learning Perl Help Me Find a Job?

Employability is a key consideration when you decide to learn a skill. To evaluate if Perl will help you get a job, consider three factors: salaries, job openings, and industry growth. Let’s talk about each of these factors.

  • Salaries: According to PayScale, the average salary for a developer who has Perl skills is $94,162, which is much higher than many other technical occupations.
  • Job Openings: On Glassdoor, there are presently 7,690 jobs that list Perl as a necessary skill. Perl is used for so many applications, from data analysis to web development, so you should have no trouble finding a position that needs someone who has a knowledge of Perl.
  • Industry Growth: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that jobs in software development, where Perl is commonly used, will grow by 22% between 2019 and 2029. While only a few of the new jobs will require Perl as a skill, this shows that growth has far from stagnated in the sort of tech jobs where Perl is useful.

To find a job that lists Perl as a skill, you should study hard and build examples of your work. Your learning will pay off during the interview process and, later, on-the-job.

Conclusion: Should You Learn Perl?

The answer to the question “should you learn Perl?” is in your own hands. Learning Perl is a great investment of your time if you want to be a data analyst or a software engineer because Perl is commonly used in these fields. But, there are other skills which are more commonly used, such as Python, R, and Java, in these fields.

The salaries for Perl developers are high and this is probably in part due to how few people there are to fill Perl jobs. This leaves you with an opportunity: learning Perl should give you a skill you can use for a long time in the job market. And once you have learned one programming language, you should find learning others easier.

In any case, Perl is a versatile and useful programming language to know. You will need to spend some time learning Perl but that investment is likely to pay off in the job market.

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